At the half of his team’s grueling first half struggles against Miami Sunday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Fianls, with no one watching and only within earshot of his dozen teammates and a spattering of coaches, Derrick Rose again proved why he is the NBA’s MVP.
Chicago was locked in a 48-48 tie with the Heat at that juncture, and Rose’s uncharacteristic three turnovers stood out nearly as much as his dazzling, fearless forays to the basket. The youngest MVP in league history seemed a bit out of sorts, and yet he was poised enough to realize he needed to somehow soothe the savage beast burning within his young, impressionable teammates.
“Just by nature, I’m quiet,” said Rose. “But being in this position, being the point guard, being one of the leaders on this team, you have to talk a little more. I told them it was me. Careless turnovers, I’m the point guard I have to do way better.”
And so, as he has all season, Rose set sail on a course few can match. And as the MVP goes, so goes the league’s winningest team and playoff top seed. Trailing 58-57 midway thru the quarter, Rose scored half of his ten points in the quarter during a game-changing 12-2 run and the Bulls were well on their way to their 103-82 final margin of victory.
But, perhaps even more than the 28 points and six assists he finished with, Rose’s calming cries seemed to motivate and inspire all those around him. Luol Deng finished with a spirited 21 points, seven rebounds and four steals— all while locking down LeBron James on 5-of-15 shooting and limiting him to just 15 points.
“Definitely to guard a guy like that the whole defense has to stay focused,” said Deng, pride of the fact Bulls were also able to limit Dwyane Wade to just 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “There were times we switched and times we forced him into the double. Our bigs were great at forcing him into the front.”
The Bulls also got 14 points from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah chipped in with nine points and 14 rebounds. And then there was Taj Gibson, who stepped up for the two highlight plays of the game, including a two-handed posterization of Wade just before halftime.
“Yeah, that was a good one,” admitted Wade said. “That’s the first time I’ve been dunked on all year.” Game 2 is Wednesday night in Chicago. —Glenn Minnis